What comes to mind when you hear the word intimacy? Many people think of physical intimacy—as in a sexual relationship. But in marriage, emotional intimacy is just as essential as sexual intimacy. Emotional intimacy means you can openly and safely express your emotions in a supportive atmosphere.
There are four essential elements of intimacy: Value, Energy, Sacrifice, and Trust. A good way to remember these is using the acronym INVEST: Intimacy necessitates value, energy, sacrifice and trust. Let’s explore those.
Value. Intimacy requires unhindered inner closeness, and that means a husband and wife need to be able to share their thoughts and opinions with each other without fear of reprisal. The actions and attitudes of each spouse needs to say to the other “I value your thoughts. Your thoughts are important to me.”
I once counseled a couple in which the husband constantly belittled his wife whenever she shared an opinion—and he did it in front of their children. Then he wondered why they were growing so distant and why they weren’t having sex!
Energy. Marriage takes work. Marriage is not easy. Men and women tend to view the world from different perspectives and different experiences. That means you have to put effort into understanding your spouse. Your actions need to say, “I am working hard to listen to you and understand you.”
In other words, you don’t roll your eyes when your spouse has a different opinion. You don’t judge him or her. You don’t ignore him or her. You put energy and effort into your relationship.
Sacrifice. Every relationship requires sacrifices, and one of the first things you have to let go of is your need to be right. Some people always have to be right and are quick to make sure you know it. But sometimes happiness is only possible when you let go of judgment and sacrifice your need to be right or win an argument.
This was something I had to learn. With Karen, I was never at a loss for words. My quickness in sharing my opinion often made minor disagreements worse. It’s good to communicate with your spouse and it’s important to stand for what you believe in. But in minor things, keeping your mouth shut is a necessary compromise.
Trust. Do you feel emotionally safe in your marriage? Does your spouse? When something happens in your life—whether it’s fantastic or terrible—you’re always going to tell the safest person first. In a healthy, emotionally intimate marriage, that person is your spouse.
When God created Adam and Eve, the Bible says they were “naked and unashamed.” The Garden was an atmosphere of complete purity where they didn’t have to hide. Does your spouse feel like he or she needs to keep certain emotions or opinions from you? If so, then your spouse may not fully trust you.
Mental and emotional intimacy requires value, energy, sacrifice and trust. Introduce these to your marriage and the two of you will become closer than ever before.